2022 almost felt like the year that set the course for 2023; some of the biggest IPs made their final swansongs on last-generation hardware. Yes, there is still a shortage of “next-gen” systems, but the industry has to move on at some point. As a result, we’ve seen an increase in titles exclusive to PS5 and Series X|S, even though the install base of PS4 is still too good to pass up for many game developers.
Of course, some of the things we saw in 2022 will change gaming for the better for at least another decade. The open-zone shenanigans of Sonic Frontiers will finally take the franchise into the future with a new audience. While the Soulslike clones will always be around, Elden Ring will continue to be the untouchable standard bearer, even though contenders like Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty will be formidable in their own right.
Anyway, I played five games in 2022.
5. METAL MAX Xeno Reborn
JRPGs waste your time. Like, really waste your time.
Between the apologetic “it takes 10 hours for the game to start” and the weird owl who doesn’t stop talking, the latest Metal Max is a breath of fresh air for anyone who simply wants to get right to business. It’s a post-apocalyptic world; there are giant ants and a fully customizable tank; need I say more? Sometimes the best kind of lore is one the player needs to find on their own between the lines, and the best type of RPG takes the best of table-top conventions for the player to make of it what they will.
4. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
It’s sad to realize how, between two Pokémon sequels and a new Splatoon, Nintendo has overshadowed Kirby’s first proper 3D outing. It’s bad enough that the game’s publisher overshadowed it, but there is also a wealth of other big releases in 2022.
If it somehow slipped under your radar, don’t let it. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is as good as any of Big N’s platformer classics. The signature gameplay translates smoothly into an engaging 3D adventure, so Kirby’s big adventure will deliver smiles in spades if you’re playing catch-up over the holiday season.
3. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined
Remakes of classic titles are my favorite games to play, primarily when they are based on rare and forgotten classics.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is just a badass retro gaming experience featuring some of the best sprites used in modern 2D gaming. It’s fun, chaotic, and challenging, with plenty of reasons to come back again and again. In a fast-moving age of big game releases, most of us finish one game and move on to the next, but games like Pocky & Rocky get more fun as time passes.
2. The King of Fighters XV
Between Guilty Gear -Strive- and its next major season, Street Fighter 6, and the looming presence of Tekken 8, it’s going to be interesting to see where The King of Fighters XV will stand in 2023, but at this point, SNK’s latest team battler was the best fighting game of the year.
From its unmistakable musical direction to the perfectly curated character roster, the franchise could not have entered the modern era better. The gameplay is sublime, and the rollback netcode provides an excellent service, but ongoing community support will be the biggest question for 2023. Regardless, this game is the best way for anyone to jump into The King of Fighters, a game that honors its past while blazing a path into a new era.
1. Sonic Frontiers
Sonic the Hedgehog will always be a polarizing franchise, but what can be said about Sonic Frontiers is that whatever it had set out to do… worked.
A future where Sonic games are 20-hour epics is a pretty wild idea, and I don’t know if I will stick around for what comes next, but for now, I can say for sure that engaging with the Open Zone design at my whim, while still enjoying some bite-sized action stages, really engrossed me. Also, who knew the combat would be the best part?
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